The death on Friday of the Sage Sagittarius’ 55-year-old chief engineer apparently caused by a heart attack came only a fortnight after the unexplained disappearance of a crewman 430 nautical miles from Cairns and has led to suspicions of foul play.
The crewman lost overboard had reportedly been preparing to complain about working conditions on the ship.
International Transport Workers Federation coordinator Dean Summers told ABC News that the crew members were scared for their lives and had gathered into one cabin as they would if the ship were under attack from piracy.
“We’re also told that this wasn’t a suicide, that the seafarer did have some problems onboard,” Summers said.
“At one stage it was suggested that he was to approach the ITF in Australia. We weren’t told exactly why.”
The Sage Sagittarius coal carrier is operated by Japanese company Nippon Yussen Kaisha.
It ships coal from Australia to Japan, is serviced by a Filipino crew and floats the flag of Panama.
Investigations into the deaths are ongoing and are expected to be complicated by questions of ultimate jurisdiction responsibility and a lack of concrete information and details on the case.